The proper care and maintenance of rental properties isn’t just about fixing the roof and painting the trim. If you are found negligent and in violation of any state or federal codes, it could lead to a lawsuit that you are very unlikely to win. The good news is that there are ways to protect yourself, but it’s first important to know exactly when you could be found guilty of negligence.
When a landlord fails to make timely repairs
Not all repairs are urgent, but when a tenant’s safety or health is in jeopardy, you’d better make arrangements to fix the issue right away. Some examples of urgent repairs might be a hole in the roof, window, or wall, a gas leak, broken fire alarms, mold, pests, rodents, or electrical problems. Usually a repair should be made in less than 30 days, but if it does threaten a tenant’s health or safety, it should be addressed as soon as possible. In fact, in the case of gas leaks or other dangerous mishaps, the tenant should be advised to leave the premises if you are unable to make an emergency repair. State laws vary a little, but in all 50 states, a landlord is required to provide proper plumbing, heat, and running water.
Aside from making timely repairs and conducting routine maintenance on your properties, protect yourself by maintaining liability insurance that will cover the cost of damage, injury, and lawsuits. It’s also a good idea to speak to an injury lawyer immediately if and when any accusations come up, as your tenant is probably doing the same.
When a landlord fails to address suspicious activity
A landlord can also be guilty of negligence if a crime is committed against a tenant after a landlord fails to report suspicious or criminal activity that led up to the crime. For example, if they see someone looking in a tenant’s windows and don’t report it, the landlord could be found negligent if the home is robbed the next night. Or if a tenant complains about a dangerous or suspicious situation, it’s the landlord’s responsibility to address or report it. Furthermore, a landlord is responsible for providing reasonable protection from crime, such as door and window locks and proper lighting.
When a landlord intentionally inflicts emotional distress
You’ve heard of so-called slumlords who skirt serious issues, fail to make repairs, and practically extort their renters for too-high rent. In those cases, a tenant can sue a landlord for emotional distress. Basically, the tenant is claiming the landlord caused unnecessary fear of dangerous circumstances by not providing them with a safe and healthy place to live. If you feel you have done your best to maintain your rental properties, you shouldn’t have to face these lawsuits. But many times, when good landlords do, it’s because they failed to do background checks on their renters and are being scammed. Protect yourself from these situations by using a site that offers a safe and reliable tenant background check free.
It’s important to note that for a tenant to win a negligence case against a landlord, they have to prove that the damage or injury was intentional. If you keep up with property repairs, report suspicious activity, and respond to all tenant complaints as they arise, you will likely never lose a lawsuit. But take all the proper precautions ahead of time. Purchase a good insurance policy that will help recover financial loss, retain or at least speak to a good attorney about staying within the law, and run background checks on all potential tenants before you allow them to rent your property.